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Carefully taught

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I first encountered Scrappy, a puppy of unknown ancestry, on the mean streets of New York City. At the other end of the leash was a little boy, named Antonio who spoke little English.

He and his family had recently emigrated from Puerto Rico. We communicated by my “pointing” to objects and mouthing their English words. Antonio developed a working vocabulary and he, Scrappy and I became an “item.” Antonio was 4 and I was 5.

One day, a woman scrutinizing us from a park bench yelled over, “You two had best stick to your own kind.” Then she called Antonio a racial slur that rhymes with stick. I had never heard that word before and asked Mama what it meant. She told me never to use it and explained why.

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught from year to year.”*

Antonio moved. I felt lost. September, school reopened. We had a new student, a shy boy who kept to himself. He always wore a clean, crisp shirt and had the cutest gaptooth smile. His name was Michael. He became my new friend. We walked the final block to school and teamed up at recess. Michael was 5, I was 6; he was black, I was white. What did it matter?

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight.”*

Antonio, Michael and I were not “taught.”

Mama and I moved to Central New York. No one could understand me, and I couldn’t comprehend their flatvowel language. I missed Antonio and Michael.

Then a blessing: a pretty black girl approached me as I sat alone at lunch. Good gracious, she spoke “my” language! Suzette was from Queens, and we immediately “clicked.” We both had single-parent Mamas named Eleanora - an omen!

She waited for me to wal to school. We would stop at the body shop of her Uncle Moses, who would give us a dime to spend on “something nice.” Uncle Moses “adopted me,” nicknamed me his “little salt shaker.” Suzette was his “little pepper shaker.”

Golly me! Today’s toxic progressive culture would have branded the scarlet “P” for pedophelia on Uncle Mo’s chest. I walked in on gossip in the school restroom. I was the topic. “She’s nothing but white trash and a n_____ lover,” declared the group’s alpha girl. The words stung like road rash.

“Say what?” I confronted her.

“Pfft! You’re even sounding like them,” she sneered.

Them? That was the title of a B-sci-fi movie about giant ants, not a racial epithet.

Suzette and I sat down at “their” lunch table to have “them” pick up their trays and move elsewhere.

This alpha girl’s father was active in the local chapter of the ACLU. The mother of another girl was involved in the civil rights movement. Such was my introduction to Progressive hypocrisy and the progeny of white guilt. Many more chapters would unfold.

This was the era of “The Great Society” and “Urban Renewal,” bleeding heart Potemkin Villages.

“It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.”*

Currently, Iowa State University has a Campus Climate Reporting System,” encouraging students to report all “bias incidents” that cause discomfort. Colleges sanction the selection of dorm roommates based on race. Black students are prompted to seek separate cafeterias from white students and hold separate graduations.

Traditional Halloween costumes are “offensive.” “Trigger words” and “micro aggression” have banished open discussion, shoehorning each ethnic group into its own sanctuary. We are marching backwards to Reconstruction.

In May 2017, two Portland, Oregon, women were forced to close their burrito food cart over allegations of “cultural appropriation and recipe stealing.” I must also be guilty. I still treasure the handwritten flan recipe card, in Spanish, that Antonio’s mother gave mine.

Separate becomes equal?

“And of people whose skin is a different shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.*

A Cato Institute poll found that 71 percent of Americans feel political correctness is silencing us, and 58 percent said they are fearful of publicly expressing political views. Not surprisingly, 53 percent of Democrats state there is “no need to self-censor.” while 71 percent of Republicans said there is.

“To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!”*

Antonio, Michael, Suzette - thank you for being my friends. Better teachers I could not have had.

* “Carefully Taught” from 1949 Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”

Mary Himlin is president of the Kendall County Republican Club.